So, Christmas is a couple days away, but I doubt you need me to remind you of that. Here in New York City, much of our daily surroundings are transformed for the Christmas season. Many call it “the most wonderful time of the year”.
I have noticed over the past several years that the craze around Christmas seems to be growing. There used to be jokes about starting Christmas festivities before Thanksgiving. Now, it is before Halloween. There is something inside many of us (perhaps most at this point) that long to stretch this most wonderful season of the year as long as possible.
The Bells Are Ringing
What is interesting about all of this is that it is totally manufactured. What I mean is, although Christmas Day is one specific date of the year, the Christmas season is largely a creature of our own making.
I think one of the great values of Christmas is that we kind of need to be jarred into merriment. We spend so much of our time feeling down, disgruntled, angry, and overwhelmed by the ills of human living. We need something to swoop in, transform our homes and parks and general mindset, so that we can take a break from the angst and sink our teeth into some merriment.
This is a conscious decision on our part. We decide to lay aside the angst. The season does not force us into it. We choose it.
My point is that the real power of Christmas merriment is not the practical circumstance of a recognized holiday. It is our active choice. If there is a bell that rings in the Christmas season, each of us ring it. We make the choice (and, like I said, people are making the choice earlier and earlier). The merriment, then, is not so much ushered in by the calendar as by our own individual choice.
Season To Season
There is a difficult balance to be found between celebrating the uniqueness of the season and carrying the truths it reveals into all seasons.
On the one hand, this choice of merriment, of joy, of gratitude, is available to us year round. And it would be easy, if naive, to say we can choose this perspective at any time of the year. But on the other hand, there is something to the uniqueness of specific seasons. There is a power in being jarred into merriment that might otherwise be lost if we try to pretend every day is special in the way Christmas is special.
What I recommend is a conversion principle. The holiday system in America attempts to do this very thing, but in a commercial sense. You buy Christmas gifts, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July decorations, etc. So, every month or so there is something new and special, but the net result is the same – you are spending money to celebrate.
This is a perversion of an otherwise healthy principle. We can, and ought, to carry our merriment with us throughout the year while also allowing the unique forms it takes to be celebrated for their individuality. The key is to understand it is all an extension of a better perspective, true appreciation for life.
The danger comes when we become dependent on one season or another (just like so many become obsessed with one circumstance or another). Or when we become addicted to this transitive merriment, but in a superficial sense (the very thing the advertising agencies capitalize on).
If we can navigate those dangers, we will discover an incredible truth. We can choose to be thankful on Thanksgiving, merry on Christmas, adoring on Valentine’s Day, nostalgic on Memorial Day, etc. etc. And, most crucially, we can discover that this is the same, consistent choice, to choose a perspective of truth – not one that ignores the trials and tribulations, but one that contextualizes them.
In this way, Christmas survives year round as an expression of truth, the best parts of who we are.